At 8,900 ft, White Rock Lake is an entertaining route (high clearance vehicles only) to a mosquito haven campsite. With that said, you can walk out onto the dam of the reservoir and look out upon Mt. Lola with the sun rising or setting behind it in awe. The area was abundant with wildlife. During the daylight we saw a mama merganser with two babies swimming and soaking up the sun, as well as marmots on the rocks surrounding the lake hiding behind rocks as we started our hike to the worksite. At night we heard owls as we lay in our tents; hooting to one another. It was unique listening to them communicate back and forth to each other right over head as we tried to rest for the day and work to come.
Our mission was to hike four miles daily in order to reach a bridge that was in need of work on its approaches. The hike started out at White Rock Lake on the Mt. Lola Trail which met up after a small descent to the Pacific Crest Trail. Then it was a climb to the pass where we would break for water and GORP to take in the view and catch our breath. The last leg to the worksite was a descent of switchbacks down to a red fir forest to the bridge. When hiking to the bridge the approach was almost a foot and half step up to the walkway. It was made of iron beams and cement which was flown and packed to the worksite in 1994 and did not have a crew to work on it since. While we were working on the bridge a group of horses attempted to cross. One of the horses wouldn’t step up onto the bridge because of the steepness of the step and jumped off the bridge twice. This made it even more apparent that our work was needed.
Our crew; Ryan “the Stache” our fearless leader , Matt our Switzerland, Ashley cookies, Dan “Dan”, Sadie the Girl, and PCTA technical advisor Jeff (Jefe Cortez) , spent the next six days building a rock crib structure out of granite rocks from the forest. In doing this we strained some muscles and lifted some big boulders with the help of our best friend the rock bar and our brute strength. In the end we create stone steps going up to the bridge that were horse tested and approved. We also had time to do some brushing and log outs. It was the first time for some of our crew members to become swamp people like “Old Gregg.” It was a nice break from the strenuous rock moving during this hitch. It is always rewarding seeing the end project after a hard week of work.
We went through some great challenges this hitch, from medical scares to locking ourselves out of the truck, but we came out of it stronger as a crew. Change is the only constant and we have to be ready for it. We are looking forward to our next hitch in Squaw Valley with the help of our new crew member Sadie (exceptional cook and organizational extraordinaire) we are planning better and are trying to become more efficient as a group. This hitch played on our strengths and weaknesses in many ways but taught us lessons that we will carry with us on our last two hitches.
Sadie Borneman 
Born and raised in Chippewa Falls, WI as the youngest of four kids and would choose cheese over blue any day. I attended University of Minnesota Duluth where I acquired my Bachelors; majoring in Psychology, concentrated in Group Dynamics and Communication and with a minor in Outdoor Recreation Education while playing rugby for five years. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with the Great Lake Gitchie Gumee (Superior) and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness while leading trips for classes and working for the Superior National Forest. After graduating I ran a dog sledding camp on a 400 acre homestead with 60 dogs an hour from the Canadian border. I have two huskies, Burke and Bella, who run sleds for me here in Wisconsin. My experience with trail work began in 2010 on the Olympic National Forest where I took part in a six month crew with Trevor "McLeod Master" Knight as my mentor and PL. My work continues on the Pacific Crest Trail late in the season after which I am embarking on a journey to West Virginia to work on the Heart of the Highlands trail system on a Leader Crew until the end of October and from there it is up in the air.
Our last hitch was chock full of ups and downs, quite literally, as we entered the rugged and challenging arena of Squaw Valley for the first time. Being our first FULLY self-supported excursion of the summer, the crew had to make sure to pack as light as possible and fully consider what was necessary to survive for 5 days of work. Loaded with food, tools, and tents, we set out from the Truckee Ranger Station along with four of the Forest Service’s best and brightest to do some serious log-out.
In the Valley, we quickly established base camp and learned how to cook light on Whisperlight stoves, a first for the summer. Logging while moving with a 30+ lb pack is not the easiest feat, and some members quickly discovered that bringing more food can be quite the challenge when you have to carry it yourself! However each member was able to hold their own and persevere, even if it meant some sore shoulders and backs at the end of the day.
With the extra people on board, we were able to split the group and tackle two areas at once, which we did on the second and fourth days of work. It was a great learning experience for everyone, with the SCA members gaining new perspectives on the usefulness of rockbars, and the Forest Service guys hearing some stories about the summer we’ve had thus far. On the third day, everyone packed up camp and once again moved to a new location while logging the whole way. With less food, the trip seems easier, but the extra work can certainly wear down the body. Along the trip, the crew was able to leapfrog and clear sections of trail with some of the largest logs we’ve encountered yet.
The last day of the hitch was surely the most daunting, with a nearly 6 mile uphill towards the summit of the Squaw Valley Ski Resort. Loaded once again full of slightly lighter packs, but with a whole lot less stamina, the crew trudged their way bit by bit past every single switchback and mule’s ear until FINALLY reaching the peak, and what a view it was! Lake Tahoe in front of them, and the trails clear behind them, our familiar SCA members were at long last able to ride the welcoming Tram car though the historic Olympic site and on towards some much deserved burgers. Kicking ass and taking names, we were able to log out over 20 miles of trail in 5 days, an accomplishment to be proud of. Surely, this was a hitch that would go down in history.
Hitch five is over and mid-season is officially here. Crew PCT ’12 found ourselves working in another beautiful new area this week, the Tahoe National Forest. After saying one last goodbye to Mammoth Lakes, we were off to Downieville, CA – about an hour drive outside Truckee. Our new living situation is a bit more posh than our last – the USFS barracks have beds, washer and dryer, a kitchen, even a VCR player. It’s ok to be jealous.
After a day living the life of luxury, we were off to the new base camp. Instead of going backcountry this time, we managed to snag a campsite at the wonderfully scenic, roadside adjacent Granite Flat campground. Rather than stick around too long, we went to work after a brief meet and greet with the new contacts, Bob Holland and Jeff Curtis, as well as the PCTA volunteer helping us out this hitch, Rick Ramos. The trail access was from the actually scenic Aspen Meadows Ski Resort, up a rough dirt road that had a panoramic view of Lake Tahoe; a good welcome to our new home for the month.
The work this hitch took us in a new direction as well. After a month of log-out, it was time to learn about rock work, tread maintenance and some light brushing. The big project was a stone crib wall that took all four days and much smashing and searching to complete. Other side projects included tread widening, retention wall tread improvements, and a few miles of shrubbery to remove.
Work was only half the fun this hitch though. The drive down on the first day really began when we took a wrong turn on the dirt road, which led to an even more rough, vegetation covered road. Nothing gets in the way of the truck. Not even the bunny slope we ended up driving down. SCA truck – 1, Aspen Meadows Ski Resort – 0. Later that day, Tom Moutsos , SCA Regional Director in the Southwest and California, joined us with ice cream, watermelon, and his family to help us out. Oh, he also came to work too, which was awesome. Truckee Thursdays also happened, where we all took part in getting confused, concerned, even repulsed from the local populace. I can only assume it was because they couldn’t handle our wicked dirt tans. Our glorious PL even found himself being stalked by a cougar.
Somewhere between the work, the people we get to meet and work with, the unpredictability and stories to last a lifetime, it is easy to forget all that is being accomplished this summer. That goes beyond the work aspects and applies to each of us out here; each one of us has a different experience, goals, what they want the outcome of all of this to be. Our reasons for coming here are undoubtedly different. The common thread is that, despite our differences, we all want to improve ourselves and the world around us.
Sometimes the work may be monotonous, sometimes it may be exhausting, sometimes it might even go unknown to the hikers. It is always worth it. Regardless, the work being done strengthens a connection to the natural world, which is something that is very difficult to do in a world such as ours. That is enough to keep me going strong.
Now gather round all, settle down and listen well to the story of the SCA Crew of 2012 who valiantly and bravely did trek the trails and cut the trees of the great Pacific Crest in the forests of old in the Valley of the Inyo National. On this most auspicious of hitches, which dear friends, if you have been keeping count, was the fourth this summer, a number of celestial events that were set in motion by the stars above and the rivers below came to fruition. Our four crew members and their fearless leader, the Little King of Stately Oklahoma, would forever alter the flow of time that carries all things to their final resting places along the vast mountain ranges.
On the first morn the five team members emerged, radiant in the morning sun, and did set out for some good trundlin’ (that’s rock tumblin’ for you folks at home who ain’t quite so trail-minded) and trundle they did for two full days down by Duck Pass Trail. But on the second day of labor, a certain foreboding hung heavy in the air, and our champions did notice its presence. For alas, about halfway through the morn, valiant Herm did swing mightily into a large rock with a hammer of sledge that did shatter and strike his knee, and the blow did knock him down. His cry of pain rang out through the trees and the damage done was great. And that was only the beginning of the troubles.
Soon after the godlike Herm had fallen and returned to the pack station, the remaining members journeyed far into the backcountry with mule support and strode along the mountaintops for 11 miles on the third day, and arrived in the place which would become known as “base camp,” and it was good. In the following 3 days spent here, the bonds of friendship would be forever forged between our lovable crew and members of the US Forest Service: Magnificent Clancy, Illustrious Jess, Noble Katie, even Fair Eric, and of course, the Wondrous canines Brave Murphy and Soft Mika. These guardians and stewards who serve the forest did instill in our reluctant and relatively ‘green’ crew the values of excellent communication, superb teamwork, and remembering to look “up, down, and all around” when encountering any new situation.
There were many trees felled that trip, and one junk rock wall was built. On the fourth day our crew encountered a mass of trees so dense and foul that Magnificent Clancy dubbed it “The S***” and it was to be cleared completely. So it was declared, and so it was to be done. In the 3 days spent with the Forest Service, our heroes cleared a full 9350 feet of trail, and made significant headway into the worst of it. Along the way, philosophy discussed, laughter was had, and dice were rolled. (Have you ever played Farkle? It is a thing of marvel.) All in all, it was one of the most enjoyable backcountry experiences our intrepid young explorers weathered thus far. Only after returning from the wild did they receive what was to be the worst shock yet: the superhuman Herm had succumbed to a tragic tear of his divine meniscus (that’s in the knee) and several months of physical therapy were required for the healing to properly commence. And so with a heavy heart the crew members bid him a fond farewell, as the sun set on his journey for the summer.
And that friends, is the tale of hitch four, filled with both joys and incredible sadness. Herm will be missed for sure, just as Melissa before him. But take heart dear readers, for the summer is not even half done, and there are sure to be just as many twists and turns in the coming weeks, with more life lessons and revelations in store. So come back often, stay awhile, and listen!
And so it was unanimous, that I, Matty “BoyIce” Herman, would take hold the reins of the powerful and handsome Pacific Crest Trail crew as we continued on our quest with dreams of achieving greatness in the world and ourselves. My leadership style was similar to the influential lyrics written by the late and great Canadian-American singer, songwriter and self proclaimed “bitch” Alanis Morissette. They go along the lines of, “I’ve got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is giving the PEACE sign.” If only peace were so easy to achieve, jeez.
The first morning, we ventured off in our big ol’ Ram 2500 super-truck to the Rainbow Falls trailhead, where we would begin our six mile hike to our beloved backwoods campground along side Deer Creek. The hike went well, and as soon as we got there we divided up the tasks at hand, setting up our base camp quicker than a kitty can go from feelings of indifference to totally loving to indifference once more. Tents were set up on flat ground and were clear from the plethora of tent crushing, human squashing snags. Ryan taught me how to tie more than my go-to slipknots (even though they’re totally the awesome, no matter what anyone says) to set up our kitchen area, which now includes a bug net; mosquitoes are little punks and make us want to kick, scream and ball our pretty eyes out when were trying to cook food.
Finally, we got out there to do what we know and love, crosscut anything that stands in our way! For the first three days, we worked south from Deer Creek while the Forest Service worked north from Duck Creek. Day one we had two cutting teams, but realizing that’s not the fastest way to go, the next few days we broke up into a two person branch removing and debarking team and a three member saw team. We covered ground quickly and the views were surreal to say the least. We met up with the Forest Service team, Clancy, Jess and Katie, quicker than we could have imagined. However, we still had two more days on hitch, so we backtracked and did some magnificent maintenance on the trail. One day, team Matt and Desi (aka Leelee) (aka Ashley) and team Dan and I built two wood retaining walls where significantly large fallen root balls had left craters where the trail had once been. Hate to sing my own praises (alright that’s a total lie), but these repaired sections of trail looked more fine than when the sun declines over the sweet Sierra skyline. The last day was no ones’ favorite. For 9 hours, we removed rocks from the trail, a lot of rocks, a lot of big rocks.. I guess when you complete all of your work for a hitch early you have to do SOMETHING to keep busy. Regardless, our gang of trail angels is not a force to be reckoned with; we’re basically the baddest thing to hit the West Coast since the death of Tupac, RIP Macaveli.
Yes we are phenomenal workers, but as I stated earlier, peace was my goal. We were having troubles earlier on in the hitch, but nevertheless, I think a little motivation, a strengthened sense of community and the accomplished feeling we all got when we saw the products of our labor come together brought us closer and further solidified our teams’ relationship. Love you, Ryan, Matt, Dan and Ashley. Fun at all costs, BoyIce out.
The Pacific Crest Trail, it’s hard to imagine that this trail spans from the Sonora Desert to the Cascades. Through hikers will walk over 2,650 miles of tread through all types of elevation gains, climates, and elevation gains. People from all walks of life choose to live on the PCT. Like any trail all that mileage requires maintenance and because the PCT runs through seven national parks, designated wilderness areas, and various Native American lands much of the work is done by hand using basic tools.
My name is Ashley. This summer the boys (Matt H, Matt K, Dan and Ryan) and I are one of the trail crews working on the PCT. Our favorite essential tool is the crosscut saw, Heidi. She is a vintage masterpiece. Quality saws like Heidi were one of the main tools that tamed the west. Two person saws, with a decent amount of elbow grease eliminated forests and opened up land for farming. Unlike our forefathers we keep our path of destruction to the trail, in order to limit our impact and allow people to enjoy the wonders of the natural world.
The past week we’ve been working on moving fallen trees in order to clear the way for hikers. In that time we’ve moved 37 trees and hiked over 6 miles into camp with an elevation change of over 2300 feet. Clearing logs is not always straight forward and the amount of strength and concentration needed is sadly underrated. I can safely say that I now have utilized all the muscles in my body. I know because after a few days I hurt everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.
We hiked six miles straight up to our primitive base camp. Our tools were packed in by mules by some of the last professional packers in the state. The mules with their beautiful saddle packs are surprisingly fast. They reached camp before we did. They dropped off our gear and quickly hiked back out, leaving us to set up camp.
No showers, no bathroom, few amenities and a killer view. We may smell like Sasquatch but we can move logs three times our size. Single handedly Matt H and I moved an 18 foot tree that had fallen on the trail. Winds of over 150 miles per hour came through the Sierras at the end of November knocking down a large number of trees. The aftermath of the blow down has occupied most of our time. In some areas there is nothing but fallen trees, too often those trees block the trail, and they stack up like pickup sticks. When we come across multiple trees resting on each other we put safety first and methodically examine the pressure forces at work within the logs. Terri of the Forest Service joined us after a few days and took control of one of the more complicated fallen tree projects.
Besides accumulating dirt, sap, sweat and a few smashed fingers we grew accustom to the long work days, outdoor cooking, the bathroom situation and most importantly all of the tools. My favorites are the Peavey (aka The Claw), the big boy hand saw, and the Pulaski. All incredibly useful.
The last day we hiked around 10 miles. We broke down our camp, worked past noon, cached our tools a few miles up the trail, went back to camp and dragged our overly large bear can filled bags onto our backs and headed out. My pack must have weighed at least 40lbs which is a lot for my smallish frame. Eventually we all made it out and took our dirty selves to Mammoth Lakes. On the way there we came across a large black bear, first one we’ve seen this season. Fortunately we were in the truck so it didn’t bother us. We finished our hitch looking like homeless people at a nice Mexican food restaurant. There were burritos for all, done the California way.
8400' Trail Maintained
37 Trees Logged Out
-Drove until midnight, still no shower until we get to Tahoe
-Woke up at 6am got to bed at 1am. They weren’t joking when they told us this job would be physically and emotionally demanding….
TO BE CONTINUED…….
LOVE THE SUCK! 
Whoever said it never rains in California was a liar. It most definitely rains in California and it just happens to rain at the most opportune times, say when you’re setting up your base camp. The dreams of a warm, dry climate that had always been spoken of in the land of milk and honey were in full force as the team departed the wonderful weather of western Washington, but the PCT crew was received with a warm welcome as only the west coast can give. In a land that is renowned for being too harsh and difficult for even the most seasoned of travelers, the newly formed trail crew was put to the test early and often with a steady rain, freezing temperatures, and monstrous swarms of mosquitoes. The response to these trying times was a strong and echoing war cry of “LOVE THE SUCK.”
The team fought back so hard they cleared a mile of trail on day one, which was supposed to be an introduction to forest standards. They clawed and gnashed through everything the high sierra could throw at them and only sustained one loss; an extremely tight pair of green wranglers. Which they later learned could only be fully respected when worn by one Michael Morse, the wilderness manager for the Inyo National Forest and jockey of the mule, Betsy.
After spending a day working around Sotcher Lake, the team had a look into their future as they were introduced to the PCTA’s Can-Do crew. The Can-Do crew had already been busy in the Red’s Meadow area for a few weeks when the PCT team was introduced to them, and the team was immediately impressed by the Can-Do crew’s autonomy and passion for the outdoors, and also the stories that were passed down from those that were already life-long stewards of our environment to those just beginning their journey as conservation leaders. There was an immediate bond between the two crews that carried through their mutual training and certification with the crosscut saw. The PCT crew listened to the stories and advice of Ranger District icons such as Keith Dawley and also the tales and mentorship of Can-Doers like ‘Single-Jack’ Annie. In the end though, they were rewarded with the opportunity to get to know an oft forgotten member of the crew, the beefy bucking saw, Heidi. A grand symbol of the power of teamwork, Heidi (the crosscut saw) is a constant reminder of the power of the human spirit and ingenuity. Awkward and temperamental when operated by a single bucker, she’ll sing and dance when she works with a team. Already putting miles under their belt, the PCT team can only become more and more imposing as the summer sun toughens their skin.
15,100’ of Trail Maintained
48’ of Log Retention
36’ of Stone Retaining Wall
8 Drainage Structures
Matthew Herman 
Born and raised in Rochester, New York, this refined young man was confined by the concrete streets where the elites ran the East. The West was the best way to escape the clover expressways, a large patch of maple and cherry woods helped Matty Ice find his path, a place he understood. He is now in his third year at SUNY Geneseo studying Geography, minoring in Environmental Studies. The past year he lived in a residence hall focused on environmentalism, sustainability and social justice, where his resident advisor turned him onto the idea of serving with the SCA. He is extremely excited to meet the other members of the superstar Pacific Crest Trail group and hopes his light-hearted mindset helps ease the adventure as they conquer the Sierra Nevada area, smelling of sweat and campfires. May the current generation and those to come appreciate the phenomenal work going to done this summer, GO PCT CREW 2K12!
Daniel Gaewski 
Daniel Gaewski was born and raised in Connecticut, never having known the call of the Western Frontier. He has always loved the outdoors from a young age, going on camping trips and driving cross country with his family to see Yellowstone. A recent college graduate of the University of Connecticut with a double major in Psychology and Anthropology, he longs to leave his quiet life in CT for some adventure in a place far from his comfort zone. The PCT Team seems like the perfect opportunity to learn about our nation's National Parks and the jobs that need to be done to maintain a presence in the wild. He eagerly looks forward to a summer of working hard to clear trails, living as part of a team, and experiencing life in the California forests.
Matthew Koenig 
My name is Matt Koenig. I was born and raised in various parts of Ohio. Ever since I was young, I’ve been outdoors. Around age 10, I moved up to a newly formed suburb of Columbus. It was a perfect situation; our house was one of the few on the street, with a pond in the backyard and nearby forests so thick it was difficult to move through. In my late teens, the area grew very rapidly. I saw suburbs, shopping centers and urbanization right before my eyes. Ever since, I’ve wanted to get back to it. After graduating high school, I decided it was time for a change of scenery, and moved out west.
I am a senior at Northern Arizona University. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be graduating in the fall with a degree in Environmental Studies. I’ve worked with a local environmental group, the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, dedicated to bringing the Mexican Grey Wolf back to one of it’s natural environments, the Mogollan Rim of Arizona. I want to spend my life working in the outdoors, ideally to conserve and maintain it for future generation. This is why I am looking forward to working with the Student Conservation Association. I could not ask for a better way to spend my summer.
Ashley Ledesma 
My name is Ashley LeDesma. I was born in Los Angeles and was raised in San Diego. I grew up in a zoo. We always had pets, currently we have fifteen animals; parrots, fish, turtles, cats, dogs, lizards, and a baby squirrel. I am the oldest of six, I have triplet sisters and two younger brothers. From a young age I was taught to be responsible, thoughtful and to share. Independent and headstrong I generally carve my own path. When I was fifteen I decided I wanted to study a combination of history and biology. Anthropology was a perfect match. At nineteen I earned my BA with honors from UC Berkeley in Anthropology, and minored in global poverty. After university I moved to New York City where I worked for the New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit dedicated to maintaining local community gardens and parks. While I was there I had the opportunity to study at the Art Student League. In the last two years I’ve traveled from Maine to San Diego and back again. During this time I fell in love with the diverse geography and natural environment of the U.S. I believe that the national park system is the best thing that this country has ever done. I joined the SCA in order to become part of a community dedicated to conserving those incredible natural spaces.
The tall tales of Pecos Bill hold nothing but a candle to the grandiose stories told of Ryan Hughes. Born on the golden plains and rolling hills of Eastern Oklahoma, Ryan grew up tangling with tornadoes and wrangling water moccasins. After toiling in the muddy waters of the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers, Ryan first allowed himself to be called a cowboy upon enrolling at Oklahoma State University. After four long years, Ryan discovered that he had in fact graduated, with a degree in English, and like one of his favorite characters, Huck Finn, Hughes lit out for the western territories. Since he left his prairie home, Ryan has stared down rattlesnakes on a trail crew in the Blue Mountains of Oregon and Washington, his skin grew thick and rough under the blazing sun of the Mojave Desert, he took his licks as a wildland firefighter for the Umatilla National Forest, and survived a winter in the snow at Steven's Pass Ski Resort in Washington. Surely, though, the king of the pokes will face a tough test this summer atop the western ridge of mountains known as the Sierras, however, only the most deserving shall see his wide brim fade into the sunset.
A big wave hello to all of you who'll be tangling with the Sierras this summer. Just in case you need to get a hold of me, your wonderful Project Leader, for any reason, I thought I would give you all that information.
Pacific Crest Trail Project Leader, SCA Trail Corps